Mistakes and Consequences

by Glenn Conjurske

A Sermon Preached on June 9, 1991. Recorded, Transcribed, & Revised.

I’m going to speak to you this morning on mistakes and their consequences. I don’t have any particular scripture to turn to to begin with, but we’ll turn to a number of them this morning. Mistakes have consequences. It’s the part of wisdom to recognize that, and I’m afraid that it’s one of those things that people usually only learn by experience—-hard knocks. They don’t understand that mistakes have consequences until they are enduring the consequences. The fact of the matter is, in our day most folks don’t even recognize that sin has consequences—-deny it if they can, ignore it if they can. But I’m not talking this morning about sin. I’m not talking about something that you deliberately do that’s wrong. We know that sin has consequences, and very severe ones, but mistakes also have consequences. Things that you don’t do deliberately wrong, but things that are just unwise. Things that you may have no idea are unwise, and you may have no idea what the consequences are. Those kind of mistakes still have consequences, and they may be consequences that are very serious. Maybe consequences that are long-lasting, even eternal. Maybe consequences that others will have to endure besides yourself.

Now all of this may sound rather discouraging, if I’m going to reap serious, long-term consequences, to others as well as to myself, for doing things that I don’t even know are wrong. I’m not going to preach this morning to discourage anybody, but I hope to solemnize you as well as myself, because I believe that mistakes can be prevented. Maybe not in every case. There may be some mistakes that we just don’t have any means to prevent. We do the best we can, and we still make mistakes. But I have faith in God also. The song that we just sang says, “he stands to shield me from danger.” And it just may be that God may shield us from those mistakes, or from the consequences of them. But I believe that one large reason why mistakes do have consequences, and why God has ordained that mistakes should have consequences, is simply because mistakes can be avoided, and ought to be avoided, and we don’t have a great deal of excuse for most of the mistakes we make, even though we make them innocently and ignorantly. I may not have known any better, but it’s a probability that I could have known better, and therefore that I should have known better. And therefore God has ordained that my mistakes, that I make in innocence and in ignorance, do have consequences—-often very serious consequences.

You may turn with me to I Chronicles, chapter 13, and we’re going to see what appears like an innocent mistake that had very serious consequences. By the way, as I said, I’m not preaching to discourage anybody, but to make us solemn, and I’m also going to give some prescriptions at the end of this, how we can avoid making mistakes. Of course the sermon would only discourage if there was no remedy. I Chronicles, chapter 13, verse 7: “And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.” Now it says, “And David [verse 11] was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza; wherefore that place is called Perez-Uzza to this day.” Now why was David displeased? Well, it seemed that what Uzza had done was an innocent thing, and it therefore seemed that what God had done was unfair. Uzza wasn’t intending to do anything wrong. He was just trying to be helpful. The oxen stumbled, and the ark was about to tip over, and he was just trying to be helpful. He put forth his hand to steady the ark, and God smote him. It was an innocent mistake, and David was displeased, because God smote him.

Now what I want to suggest to you here is that Uzza should have known better. I think it was a notorious fact that the ark of God, when it was taken by the Philistines, could hold its own. The gods of the Philistines fell down prostrate and broken before the ark of God, and the men of the Philistines were smitten by God because they treated the ark of God irreverently—-looked into it. That was a notorious fact. Every Israelite should have known that God could take care of his own ark. There was some kind of lack of faith on Uzza’s part to think that he needed to take care of the ark of God. Uzza made an apparently innocent mistake, but he should have known better. He should have known that the ark didn’t need his hand. And God held him responsible not only for what he did know, but for what he should have known. Now that’s a very solemn thing, but you know the scripture says, “He that knew not his lord’s will, and did it not, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Why? Because there’s no excuse for not knowing. He could have known, therefore he should have known. God will hold him responsible for what he should and could have known, and he will be punished though he did not know.

Now you keep that in the back of your mind. I’ll come back to that before we’re finished. I believe the reason that mistakes have consequences, and by the way, very serious and fatal consequences, as in the case of Uzza here, is because God holds us responsible for what we ought to know, and not only for what we do know. And that ought to set us to finding out what we don’t know in good earnest. I’ll come to that before we’re finished. Now not only do mistakes have serious, maybe fatal consequences, but they also have long-term consequences. Take a case of marriage. I have a number of books of old proverbs, and there are quite a few proverbs in these old collections about marriage, and I find these proverbs to be about equally divided between two sorts. The one sort of proverbs represents marriage as heaven on earth—-the best thing that ever happened to anybody, and the other class of proverbs represents marriage as hell on earth—-the worst thing that ever happened to anybody. They are all on one side or the other, for there isn’t much ground in the middle.

Now the Bible addresses this question in I Corinthians 7, and says, “If they cannot contain, let them marry. It is better to marry than to burn.” But, lest anybody get the wrong idea, it is NOT better to marry anybody that comes along. It is NOT better to marry the wrong kind of spouse. There are some proverbs also in the Old Testament that talk about this. You’ll find one in Proverbs 21, where it plainly indicates that it’s better not to be married, than to be married to the wrong kind of person. In the ninth verse it says, “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” Now I Corinthians 7 says, “It is better to marry than to burn.” Here he says, It is better to be alone, if you’ve got the wrong kind of spouse. The nineteenth verse of this same chapter says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness,”—-alone—-out there in the land of the desert—-“than with a contentious and an angry woman.” The New Testament says it is better to marry. These proverbs indicate that in some cases it is better not to—-better to be alone—-better to dwell in the corner of the housetop—-better to be out there in the desert all by yourself, than to be dwelling with such a spouse.

Now folks who get married generally don’t have the idea when they get married that they are making a mistake, or doing anything wrong. But a good many people do mistake when they marry. Maybe they don’t even know that it makes any difference what kind you marry, and they make a mistake. Well, it has some pretty serious consequences, and they’re long-term consequences. They may say, Well, I didn’t do anything wrong. I thought I was doing the right thing. In fact, I thought it was the will of God to enter into this marriage—-but the consequences of that mistake are all the same, whether you did what you did ignorantly and innocently, or even thinking you were doing the right thing, or whether you did a deliberate wrong. You’d better be wise before you get married. Another proverb says, “Marry in haste, and repent at leisure.” But it’s too late to repent then. You make a mistake in this matter, and you are going to endure the consequences of it. You had better be wise before you make your mistakes.

But it’s a hard thing. Sometimes people make mistakes in matters in which they don’t even know it’s possible to make a mistake, but still they have to endure the consequences. Now what I’m coming to eventually here is: you had best get some wisdom before you act, in everything, even in those things where you didn’t even think any wisdom was necessary. That’s exactly where you’re in the most danger of making mistakes.

Now I want to look at I Chronicles 13 again. We see that Uzza endured the consequences of his mistake—-his apparently innocent mistake in putting forth his hand to steady the ark of God. No doubt he thought he was doing the right thing, and he was doing it with a good motive. Maybe he even thought he was doing the work of God to take care of the ark of God, but it was a mistake. But there was another mistake before that. I want you to read with me from the beginning of this chapter. In I Chronicles 13 it says, “And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us: and let us bring again the ark of our God to us; for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul. And all the congregation said that they would do so; for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt, even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjath-jearim. And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the Lord, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab.” Now here was the first mistake. David put the ark of God on a new cart. He no doubt thought he was doing the right thing. He wasn’t sneaking around, trying to get away with something behind someone’s back. This is something that he had planned out ahead of time, and called all the people of Israel from all the extremities of the land, to gather together for a grand procession to bring back the ark of God, and he no doubt had a special cart made for the occasion—-made a new cart—-wouldn’t desecrate the ark of God by putting it on an old cart that was common, and had been used to haul hay or oats to market. He wasn’t sneaking around trying to do something wrong, but what he was doing was wrong. It wasn’t wrong to bring the ark of God back, but it was wrong to put it on a cart. And David should have known better. And the men that drove the oxen should have known better. If they had known the Scriptures, they would have known better.

Now what I want to point out to you here is that David’s mistake of carrying the ark of God on a new cart had some serious consequences, and to somebody else besides himself. It was Uzza that was smitten. He made his own mistake, to be sure, but it was a mistake he couldn’t have made if David hadn’t first made his mistake. Your mistakes may have very serious consequences to other people. I talked to a man a few years ago whose children went bad. He was telling me all the things that he had done to raise his children right—-never sent them to the public school, sent them to the Christian school—-allowed them a minimum amount of television—-and all the things that he was telling me that he had done, that he thought were the right things, were in my eyes the wrong things. He thought he was doing right, but he was making mistakes in raising his children. Now his children reap the consequences of those mistakes. Not without their own responsibility, of course, but their sin might have been prevented, if he had known the truth and done it. We make mistakes for lack of knowing the truth. David made a mistake and put the ark of God on a new cart. If David had known the Scriptures, he never would have done such a thing, and the consequences of that mistake never would have happened. David was innocent as far as his motives went—-wasn’t sneaking around trying to do something wrong. He acted openly in the sight of all Israel, and before God, but he was doing the wrong thing, nevertheless. And his mistake had consequences. All mistakes have consequences.

David made another mistake in 1 Kings, chapter 1. We read about it in verse 5. It says, “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” Now David made a great mistake in not displeasing his son. It’s a mistake that thousands of parents are making every day. I see some parents that seem to bend over backwards to pacify their children, and keep them happy. Little boy fusses for something—-you give it to him. Why? Well, you don’t want to displease him. And of course you have plenty of motivation not to displease him. Some of these little tikes are just the most pleasant and cheerful things you ever did see on earth, as long as you’re pleasing them. As soon as you displease them, they turn into bears. Well, David made that mistake. It says he had not displeased him at any time. Just did his best to keep the little tike happy when he was little—-though you know it doesn’t work, for these fussing, demanding children are the most unhappy children on earth. But anyway, when the boy got a little bigger, he had to do other things to keep him happy, but just kept him happy—-didn’t displease him. Gave him what he wanted, and when Adonijah got to be a man, (always had what he wanted all the rest of his life), he said, I think I’ll take the kingdom. Father has given me everything but that, but he won’t give me that, but I’ll just take it. Now David undoubtedly acted in ignorance and in innocence. You don’t think for a minute that David said in his heart, I am going to raise a rebel. I am going to raise a child for the flames of hell. That never entered his heart. He just did it innocently, ignorantly—-didn’t have wisdom to raise the kid right, so he raised him wrong—-innocently—-ignorantly—-mistakenly, not purposely, but his mistake had the same consequences as if he had done it on purpose. Mistakes have consequences. And not only to himself, either, but to the poor son that was raised that way. You know, you see some of these children that fuss and get their way, and you don’t know if you should feel sorry for the kid or blame him. Parents could prevent it. And parents say, Well, you know he fusses because he is little, but he’ll grow out of it. He may grow out of the fussing, but he won’t grow out of the character that that fussing is the manifestation of. That needs to be disciplined out of him. He won’t grow out of that. When boys get a little older, it’s a little too hard on their pride to fuss and whimper like a baby, so they find some other way to manifest their selfish, demanding character, and when they turn twenty-one or twenty-five or whatever Adonijah was, they say, I think I’ll take the kingdom. Well, he lost his life. It was David’s mistake, and Adonijah paid for it.

Now one other thing that I want to mention is that God will often hold you to the consequences of the mistakes that you make, and he’ll hold you to the mistakes themselves. You can’t always just make a mistake and then say, Well, that was a mistake: I’ll just go back and undo it. God won’t necessarily let you. You make a mistake and marry the wrong kind of person, and you can’t just wiggle out of it. You’ve got to endure the consequences of it for a long time. God will hold you to the mistakes that you make.

I want you to turn with me to the fifteenth Psalm, where God sets forth this principle. He says, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” I might as well finish the Psalm and read the other things. “He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” But now look at this one: “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” Did you ever know anybody to swear to his own hurt on purpose? Not usually. It’s usually an innocent mistake. If I have sworn to my own hurt, it’s because I didn’t know at the time that it was to my own hurt. I found that out later. But God is going to hold me to it when I find out that it was to my own hurt. The man that will dwell with God is the man that swears to his own hurt, and changes not when he finds out that it was to his own hurt. God holds you to the mistakes that you make. You’re going to endure the consequences, and make the best of it. You’re not going to wiggle out of it. You’ll find the same thing in Ecclesiastes, the fifth chapter. Verse 4 says, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” You made a vow when you didn’t know what the consequences were. You didn’t take the time to find out what the consequences were. It was a mistake. Well, God says, You vow, you pay what you vow, mistake or no mistake. And don’t say, It was a mistake. That’s what the word “error” means. God, in other words, is going to hold you to the mistakes you make. Now doesn’t that indicate you ought to get some wisdom before you act? God says, “Better is it that thou shouldest NOT VOW”—-better not to act at all, than to act and make mistakes. Get some wisdom before you act. Find out what mistakes there are to make. Look at other people, and see the mistakes that they have made, and the consequences that they have had to endure, and get wise before you make your mistakes. Mistakes do have consequences—-serious consequences—-long-term consequences, consequences to others besides yourself, and consequences that God will hold you to.

Now turn back with me to the book of Joshua, the ninth chapter. Joshua and the Israelites made a very serious mistake in making a covenant with the Gibeonites. I’m not going to read all of this, or go into any great detail, but the men of Gibeon prepared themselves the dry and mouldly provisions, and they came to Joshua in verse 8: “And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye? And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us. This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy; and these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent; and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey. And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.” Now we know that there were some serious consequences of this, and God held them to it. You know centuries later when King Saul decided he was going to undo this mistake that Joshua and the Israelites had made, and he was going to put the Gibeonites to death, God still held him to the mistake that his forefathers had made. You’ll find this recorded in ll Samuel, chapter twenty-one. “Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.” Israel was wrong to make a covenant with the Gibeonites. They were wrong to make a league with them. They asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord, and the Lord had already told them not to do it—-to make no league with the people of the land. They didn’t ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Ignorantly they went their own way, and made a mistake, but God held them to it, and God held their descendants to it centuries later. Saul may have thought: when God sent Joshua into the land he was to exterminate all the inhabitants of the land. Now the Gibeonites were inhabitants of the land, but they deceived Joshua, and Joshua made a league with them, but God had already devoted them to destruction, so I think I’ll just undo the mistake that Joshua made, and I’ll exterminate the Gibeonites. But God wouldn’t let him do it. God held him to the consequences of that mistake after all those centuries.

Now I want to talk to you about what you can do to prevent making mistakes. I have mentioned all these mistakes and their consequences because I want our minds to be solemnized by the fact that we’re going to endure consequences for things that we do, that we don’t even know are wrong when we do them. Things even that perhaps we think are right when we do them—-mistakes—-errors—-not deliberate sin, just mistakes, but there are serious, long-term consequences to ourselves and to others, and we will endure those consequences. What can we do about it? I believe the first thing is to be humble. The kind of folks that make mistakes are the kind of folks that are self-sufficient and proud, and it never enters their head to think they might be doing something wrong.

Now I want you to look very carefully at this ninth chapter of the book of Joshua again. I don’t believe there was any excuse for Joshua and the Israelites to make the mistake that they made in making a league with the Gibeonites. This story that the Gibeonites brought was just too transparent, but they weren’t on their guard. Anybody who had been on their guard would have seen through this story in a hurry. For one thing, the Gibeonites overdid it. Why did they have to have old torn clothes and worn out shoes and torn wine bottles and mouldly bread? They overdid the thing. You see if they had been honest men they would have just said, We came from a far country, and left it at that. But they brought along all these things to try to prove that they were from a far country, and they overdid it, and anybody on their guard should have seen through that. When people go out of their way to try to prove something that nobody would have any reason to question otherwise, that should put you on your guard. That’s just common sense. Besides, the Gibeonites did a poor job of it. The story that they put together was so flimsy that anybody should have seen through it. It doesn’t take the same amount of time for bread to get dry and mouldy as it does for shoes or wine bottles to wear out. The bread would have been long gone before the shoes wore out. But Israel was self-sufficient, and therefore off their guard. They may have been puffed up with their recent victories, and puffed up with the promises that God had made to them, and it never entered their mind that they were going to fall and make a grand mistake here. They weren’t on their guard. It was pride.

Another thing that shows us that there was no excuse for their falling for this story is this: they say, “Where do you come from?” and the Gibeonites say, “From a very far country.” Now what would you think if you met some tourist on the street, or stopped to help somebody who was having car trouble, and you said, “Where are you from?” and he said, “Oh, I’m from far away.” Wouldn’t you say, “Well, where?” “Oh, from a state a long ways away.” Wouldn’t you immediately be suspicious? Wouldn’t you say, “What state?” I don’t think Israel had any excuse. God made the whole thing transparent enough that they didn’t have any excuse for swallowing that line. They never even inquired what country they were from. It seems like anybody with a grain of common sense would have done that. But they were puffed up. They were proud, and you know what else? The Gibeonites were very smooth and suave, and they appealed to the pride of the Israelites to gain their point. Look at how they did this. They say, “From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God; for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying,” etc. They just appealed to these Israelites’ pride, who were just puffed up with these recent victories, and they come and say, We’ve heard about these victories. And Israel was puffed up, and they didn’t ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord, and they fell for it. They were proud and self-sufficient, and therefore they made a grievous mistake. And I believe that’s the big reason why people make mistakes—-self-sufficiency—-pride. When we’re self-suficient, we don’t concern ourselves to ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord.

Well, there’s another thing that I want to talk about. You’ll find it in the fourth chapter of the book of Proverbs. Proverbs chapter 4 says in verse 5, “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee; love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding.” The reason folks make mistakes is often because they are not even aware that it’s possible to make a mistake in the thing that they are doing—-no wisdom, just blunder on their way, thinking they’re doing the right thing, where if they had a little wisdom they’d be cautious. You know, humility leads to cautiousness, and pride leads the other way. Well, you know, after you’ve endured the consequences of a few of your mistakes it tends to humble you. It’s too bad most of us have to learn the hard way. “Get wisdom,” he says, “and get it with all your getting. It’s the principal thing.” Wisdom will keep you from making mistakes. Wisdom will give you to understand even the fact that it is possible to make a mistake, whereas the foolish just blunder on, not even knowing they could do the thing wrong, and they do it wrong.

One more Scripture in the book of Proverbs, in the eleventh chapter. In Proverbs, chapter 11, it says in verse l4: “Where no counsel is, the people fall”—-that is, they make mistakes—-“but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” That means, in plain language, ask people’s advice before you act. There are various degrees of foolishness. Some folks don’t even have the idea that it’s possible to make a mistake in the thing that they are doing, so why ask anybody for advice? It never entered their mind. They just go ahead and do it, and then when they have to endure the consequences, they realize, My, what a serious mistake we have made! Other folks have enough sense to be a little bit cautious, but too proud to ask anybody’s counsel, much less to ask counsel of a multitude of people, but he says that’s where safety is—-in the multitude of counsellors.

Now you say, Well, I don’t understand how this works. You ask counsel of a multitude of people and you are likely to get a multitude of different kinds of advice. And that’s true. When you ask counsel, it’s not to get somebody to dictate to you what to do. It’s to give you understanding, so you understand what to do, and in the multitude of counsellors there is safety because where ten people may not give you good advice, the eleventh one may. And of course, it’s understood you’ll recognize it as good advice. You know, I’ve looked back sometimes at my past life, and think, Oh, if only I had known twenty-five years ago the things that I know now! What mistakes it would have saved me! But you know what? Twenty-five years ago I was probably too proud to listen if someone had told me. I really think humility is the main thing that will keep you from making mistakes. Humility is the thing that will lead you to a multitude of counsellors. Humility is the thing that will lead you to seek wisdom. Humility is the thing that will lead you to ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Humility is the thing that will keep you from leaning unto your own understanding. Humility is the thing that will move you especially to be cautious in everything that you do.

Glenn Conjurske